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The Fate of Liam Fox

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It's not a question of whether Liam Fox was a victim of a media witch-hunt or whether he simply broke the rules and faced the music. When David Cameron stood outside that black door in May last year, he promised a "clean, transparent" style of governance. He knew, following the most damaging political outrage of a generation, that the British public would accept nothing less.

Yes- the MPs' Expenses scandal is in the past, but in recessionary times it's fresh in the minds of the tightly-squeezed, hard-working citizens that the Tories take pride in fighting to represent. National trust in politics is at a generational low. The Prime Minister knew this when forming the coalition less than eighteen months ago, and he is equally as aware now.

He can deal with Theresa May and Ken Clarke bickering over feline anecdotes. He can even deal with Oliver Letwin's comprehensive filing system for cabinet documents. These sorts of developments simply act as food for political satirists and headline-draughters.

Nevertheless, when your Secretary of State for Defence is caught globe-trotting with his friend to official meetings, the jokes begin to dry out. On almost half of Mr Fox's visits abroad since took the helm of the Ministry of Defence, he was accompanied by Mr Werritty. The blurring of a minister's personal and professional relationships is precisely the kind of scandal that a single-party government dreads, let alone a coalition as complex as the one that presently leads our nation.

If Adam Werritty acted solely as an unofficial advisor to Liam Fox, this whole kerfuffle would never have arisen. Unofficial advisors assist Secretaries of State with their portfolios in a way that members of the civil service are unable to. They are a positive addition to the British political system, as long as they are not using their role for personal gain.

Yet, we already know that, using business cards with the parliamentary emblem, Mr Werritty was able to gain credibility as a supposed member of Liam Fox's office. There is currently a large question mark over whether Mr Fox's friend gained commercially from his dealings with official state business. It may not be proved by evidence, but the gossip was enough to bring down a Secretary of State.

On Monday, it was clear that Liam Fox had broken the ministerial code. On Wednesday, it was suggested that illegality had taken place within the financing of his relationship with Adam Werritty. On Friday, trusted Whitehall sources began to predict what the highest civil servant in the land would say in his report on the matter. He was expected to describe the Defence Secretary's position as "untenable".

If Liam Fox didn't resign, the Prime Minister knows he would have had a problem. Would he have acted on behalf of the majority of the country, who opinion polls suggested were routing for Mr Fox to go, or would he have backed the view of the majority of his party, who were outspoken in their support for the Defence Secretary?

David Cameron was battling with those simple, bland terms that form the over-used vocabulary of politics; honesty, trust, and credibility. It's what his government needs in a time of austerity, and it's what all parties, on both sides of the chamber, have been battling for during this era of media scandal.

Fox was widely acknowledged across the board as a good Secretary of State. He was a good addition to the cabinet, and made a positive contribution to the coalition. Nonetheless, he was aware more than anybody else that if he was to maintain his position, he could have only looked on as his career and parliamentary reputation were burnt to cinders.

When he resigned on Friday evening, Liam Fox escaped the heat. However, the oven's just been turned up a notch for David Cameron and the remaining members of his cabinet.

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